The Gold Isn’t Always at the End of the Rainbow, Sometimes it’s in the Journey

It can be very exciting when a theatre company reaches out beyond the comfort zone of not only the company but their audience as well. The results may be horrific, or they may be superb. Curtain Call Theatre has ventured well beyond their comfort zone. Known for generally presenting shows that tend to be neat and tidy with happy endings, Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow is anything but. Rainbow is a heart wrenching look at the final months of movie legend Judy Garland. 

London, England, 1968, and Judy is poised to make yet another comeback. We all know where this will wind up… dead of an accidental drug overdose in England at the age of 47, married for just a few months to husband #5, Mickey Deans, an obviously slimy character who saw Garland as perhaps his meal ticket to the big time and was willing to pump her up with whatever she needed or wanted, a rainbow of drugs and booze, in order to keep his gravy train going. That tended to be a theme in Garland’s life. Drug her up, get her on the stage and drug her up to get her to sleep. Repeat.

 As she says at one point, “This isn’t me, it’s what they made me. I was so high not only did I skip down the yellow brick road, I could have flown down it”. Her story is a tragedy, not particularly uncommon in the movie industry, where she was a manufactured star. Throughout her life, people used her for whatever they could get from her, then left.  Not dissimilar to Mama Rose in Gypsy, she asks, almost reflectively, “Why do they all always leave me?” 

The cast for End of the Rainbow is small. William Wright Heatley does a fine job playing a multitude of parts, BBC Interviewer, hotel porter, etc… Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm is Deans—a part he engulfs with all the appropriate slime that could be mustered. Within minutes, you come to hate him and all that he stands for. While it seems incredibly obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence what his motives were, it is amazing that Garland was so desperate for love and acceptance that she either could not or would not see it.

New to the Curtain Call stage is Cameron Clarke Stevens, as Anthony, Garland’s accompanist and perhaps her only true friend. Stevens’s subtle looks, tossed-away lines, and always under-the-surface seething as he watches what Deans puts Garland through is completely absorbing. 

Jeannine Trimboli is Judy Garland.  Let me point out that if you are coming to the theater expecting to see Garland or a typical drag impersonation of her, you will be disquieted. Trimboli becomes the very essence of Garland, with her moves, mannerisms, and inflections. She inhabits the woman in all of her fragility, bravado, and, most importantly, her talent. Her tour de force performance is one of the finest on Capital Region stages in recent memory.

End of the Rainbow is a play with music. And what a concert we are treated to. Trimboli is truly spectacular, whether singing concert numbers including The Trolley Song, You Made Me Love You,  more intimate, reflective moments with I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, and the incredibly heart-wrenching The Man That Got Away. Of course, you will not be disappointed with her amazing rendition of Over The Rainbow.

Trimboli will take you through two hours of comedy (Garland did have quite the sense of humor), drama, stunning music, and ultimately rip your heart out as she leaves everything on the stage. 

Curtain Call regular Director Phil Rice has worked his cast, molded and created stunning performances from them. Newcomer, Scenic Designer Jack Golden presents a beautiful stage for the action, transforming it from a London hotel suite to the stage of the Talk of the Town cabaret, always with the ever-present LED lights of the rainbow surrounding the performers. The cornerstone of the set is a baby grand piano, which Stevens plays like a pro. (He also researched Garland and did all of the arrangements for the show based on footage and recordings of the late star.) 

End of the Rainbow is a totally different offering for Curtain Call Theatre audiences. It is a spectacular way that Producing Artistic Director Carol Max has chosen to begin their 31st season. End of the Rainbow runs through September 24, for ticket or the box office at 518-877-7529.

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